Sometimes a part that costs less than five dollars can lead to damage that costs over a thousand to fix. Kenny Wallace learned that lesson on Sunday evening during a Dirt Modified race at Quincy Raceways in Illinois when a cheap piece of Chinese metal broke and caused his car to flip more than four times and ignite in flames.
On Monday afternoon Wallace and his crew determined that the culprit was a broken flange on the studs, which caused the studs to go through the right rear wheel hub.
“Sometimes you’ll get that when you run Modifieds,” Wallace told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “I don’t think some of the parts are as good as they need to be. So from now on we’ll be ordering ARP studs and we’ll push them into the hub on our own. That was crazy.”
When Wallace’s car stopped flipping it came to a rest on its roof. Fuel poured out of the carburetor and onto the compacted dirt underneath his vehicle. Wallace was stuck in the vehicle as the fuel continued to pour out, but he knew to at least turn the power off.
According to Wallace, the first person to reach him as he sat upside down wasn’t a safety worker, but instead a fellow racer.
“Gordy Gundaker who just got done winning at Pevely on Saturday night comes flying to the car and beats all the safety workers there,” said Wallace. “He said ‘Herm, what do you need?’ I said ‘The gas is pouring out of the carburetor. Have the fire extinguishers ready and turn me over.’ Sure enough, when he turned me over the gas went on the headers. There was some motor oil there too and it ignited on fire.”
As soon as the engine ignited in flames Wallace started to hold his breath. Wallace said he was out of the car within ten seconds of it catching fire.
“I’ve raced a lot. I’m not a professional at wrecking, but I’ve raced a lot so I knew to hold my breath,” Wallace said. “I was able to hold my breath long enough to be able to get out and get past the fire extinguisher powder. I got the hell out of there. When they spray those fire extinguishers you can’t stay breathing or you’ll breathe the powder in. My crew chief was so worried about me that he inhaled a little bit of smoke and got sick and started throwing up.”
Wallace said that even though this car was destroyed, he has a second race car that is race-ready, so his schedule won’t be interrupted. His next race is on May 20 at Lincoln Fairgrounds in Illinois.
And while this wreck was one of the bigger ones in which Wallace has been involved, he said it still wasn’t the biggest.
“It’s definitely the worst dirt wreck I’ve ever had,” explained Wallace. “The worst wreck I’ve ever had was at Loudon, New Hampshire in 1991 when I was leading the XFINITY points. My rear end broke out and I hit the wall down in turn three. That’s where Kenny (Irwin) and Adam (Petty) got killed so I was very thankful that I lived.”
Wallace said the big takeaway from this incident is that he and other Modified teams should start using parts made of better quality, even though they may cost a little more.
“When you get involved in something like that you just hope that maybe you can save someone else from the same thing some day.”
-By Rob Blount, Speed51.com Southeast Editor – Twitter: @RobBlount
-Photo Credit: Kenny Wallace